A role model for bureaucratsPeople are thinking about how a president can best use a country’s citizens now that Nam Duck-woo, the prime minister and finance minister in the 1970s under President Park Chung Hee, has passed away.
During Park’s 18-year rule, Nam served 10 years as finance minister, deputy prime minister in charge of economy and special economic adviser. He was one of the architects of a vigorous economic and industrial model that accomplished the rags-to-riches “Miracle on the Han River.” The president placed complete confidence in Nam and the latter paid him back through commitment and productive results. The relationship between the two exemplifies what Confucius has taught about mutual loyalty between ruler and subject while emphasizing the Three Bonds and Five Relationships for social harmony.
Most of Park’s people who helped the strongman attain his economic vision and aspirations stayed loyal. Kim Chung-yum served the longest at nine years and two months as chief of staff. Choi Hyung-sup, minister of science and technology, was the longest serving cabinet member. Foreign Minister Park Tong-jin served for four years and 10 months, Home Minister Kim Chi-yul for three years, Defense Minister Suh Jyong-chul for four years, Culture and Education Minister Min Kwan-shik for three years and three months, Minister of Commerce and Industry Chang Ye-joon for four years, Minister of Health and Social Affairs Shin Hyun-hwak for three years, Culture and Public Relations Minister Kim Seong-jin for four years and the Minister for the Board of National Unification Lee Yong-hee three years. Their roles were different, but they were the same in receiving trust and returning service.
Such a bureaucratic society is no longer common. Ministers’ terms are short-lived. President Roh Moo-hyun frankly said that ministers lose their passion and ideas when in office for two years. Two chiefs of staff to President Kim Dae-jung went to prison on bribery charges. The connection between the ruling power and senior bureaucrats no longer goes beyond formality and obligation.
Korean bureaucrats are criticized as being “without soul.” The late Nam lived strictly and nobly after retirement. He headed the Korea Progress Forum from 2005 to contribute to upgrading public and social standards. He served for the best interest of the country until his last days. His lifework should be a model for all bureaucrats in the country.